I cannot remember when a Supreme Court nomination process took the nation by storm as the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh has in the last several weeks. The last time that it became so contentious was when Justice Thomas was nominated in the early 1990’s. Sadly, the issues were quite similar. But this nomination has provoked an even larger outcry and an unprecedented level of public demonstrations as our nation seems gripped in the daily news. The debate over this nomination has given us all pause as it highlights the faultiness in our culture around issues of sexual mis-conduct and how we treat one another.
For many thousands of women the public testimony of Dr. Christine Blassey Ford became a sad reminder of other times when they experienced sexual harassment. This public conversation in print and television media has triggered memories of trauma. Statistics are shocking. From 2011 to 2015, 17,000 students in American schools were the victims of sexual assault. So it has served to remind many hundreds of thousands of people of teenage parties where people did not respect one another. One young woman I talked to this week said to me, “I don’t know what happened but we know this man.” In that moment her voice was so sad and angry that I knew that Judge Kavanaugh had reminded her of other times and places that are burned into her memory.
Whatever stories you believe or don’t believe it also raises questions about how we feel about teenagers, and what the right of passage to adulthood should be like. This allegation against a nominee for the Supreme Court of the United States raises questions about what we consider to be normal in teenage and adult drinking habits. It begs the question of what we consider acceptable for adolescents when they party.
I don’t know about you but I grew up learning to repress most of these kinds of conversations. So for a whole generation of older Americans the fact that so many people are talking so publicly about such private matters is somewhat traumatizing in itself. In today’s Boston Globe there is a front page story about how this national debate has stirred new conversations among many married couples about how we treat each other in the most intimate settings. I think that these conversations are all for the good.
Hard as this is, I hope and pray that it can help us be more honest about misconduct when it happens. I hope we can respect our survivors who carry the marks of abuse in their bodys and psyches for the rest of their lives. I hope we can learn to listen to one another with open hearts and minds. I hope we can think more clearly about how to parent our teens and how to teach respect from an early age. And I hope we can learn from this public conversation, as a nation. I have decided to change my sermons this month to the theme of “Respect.” The Bible says a lot about respect and together we may shed some light on those passages.
If you are finding this a hard time, please let someone know. If you are weary with the conversation come to worship and I hope you will find your spirit lifted. If you have been re-traumatized please get the help you need. If you don’t know what to do, take some time for self-care - walk by the water, slow your pace, recognize that we are all affected by this hard stuff.